Over a recent long weekend, I managed to do quite a lot of dyeing and some fibre processing. There was mordanting of cellulose fabrics with soybeans.
I finally decided to stop worrying about the fact that my walnuts (gathered from under trees at my workplace) were whole and having dried, I was not going to be able to separate husk from nut (where no rat had done this for me). I just soaked them whole and then dyed with them.
I clamped and dyed. This eucalyptus print + walnut bath made me happy! Here it is still wet (you can see it still clamped above if you look closely).
I flick carded Suffolk locks. Some had staining–see that yellow streak? I just decided I wasn’t prepared to waste indigo on vegetable matter and contaminate my vat. And the Suffolk is so felting resistant I thought it would be fine flicked first and dyed after 9and it was).
I used some of Tarla Elward’s wonderful Australian grown Indigo for the first time and used henna as the source of antioxidants, following Michel Garcia’s method.
I’d been concerned about how to grind up the block indigo but I had found a mortar and pestle since dye camp and put it to use. So much fun, Such a great weekend.
I am just delighted with the indigo colours on this wool, and even more delighted that I managed to revive my indigo vat, last used before dye camp a few months ago. Clearly, I learned something from the wonderful Jenai at dye camp. Indigo achievement unlocked! Blue socks one step closer.
It seems so long since I went to Beautiful Silks in Allansford for Summer Dye Camp and yet–no post. The tutor once again was Jenai Hooke, full of expertise and inspiration, and dye camp was wonderful!
We dyed with fresh woad from the garden and ice.
My fellow dyers did all kinds of amazing things with indigo and leaves. The crowd at Beautiful Silks never fails to be full of inspiring and interesting humans.
Critters dropped in!
This is a strategy for dyeing yarn that would never have occurred to me. Stunning in the skein (and all multi coloured skeins have their challenges).
I dyed with indigo and with eucalypts.
I learned a new-to-me and very effective way of mordanting with soy, and was re-educated about the importance of scouring.
I made indigo circles for later use, inspired by Jude Hill’s indigo moons on Spirit Cloth.
There was so much more! Madder, cochineal, walnut, tannins, mud, indigo painting… what a fabulous way to spend a holiday, plus the glorious time spent in Warrnambool and surrounds. Highly recommended.
Over summer I worked on my indigo dyeing skills. In case it isn’t obvious–there will be some time travelling blog posts, because there is a lot I did over December and January that we haven’t discussed, my friends. Here is my Indigo fructose vat on day 1. The indigo vat went quite well but I felt I still didn’t manage to extract all the blue from it. Most weekends I dream of cranking it back up, and fail to manage the time.
This is my latest attempt at a fermentation woad vat. It does look promising! I used all of this summer’s woad harvest (admittedly it was small this year) and one of the hottest weeks of summer and still failed to get the vat to reduce. I do think constant heat is the thing I really need to sort out for this method–but Jenai Hooke gave me a gift indigo ball at summer dye camp which might kick start the process when I am ready to try again!
I dyed washed fleece and some fabric, but the main project for the indigo vat was to dye some knitting a dear friend had done. She describes herself as having a midlife crisis which she is managing, in part, by knitting a lot, I mean A LOT of beanies. In the last six or twelve months she has scaled up to knitting gauntlets (arm warmers) and sharing the love of those. She gave me natural white knits and asked if I would indigo dye them and at last I’ve done it. They are, she said, knit from wool from sheep who grazed in the fields of France where many fascists died. I think these are for herself. Since I put them in the mail, I have received a great photo of her wearing them, grinning spectacularly and with a message saying she is taking them to Berlin. Berlin! The rest of my pile of beanies has headed out into the world too. Some to a climate activist I know who is studying in Canada and finding the snowy winter and the prospect of climate catastrophe very challenging (she can choose one and gift the others), and a big pile to my dear friends in Tasmania. When I saw them recently, one of then was wearing a very stretched out eucalyptus dyed beanie that only I could have spun and knit, and clearly wears beanies all year round. And, they know a lot of cash strapped people in Tassie who might feel the same need. I figure they will know what to do with a pile of hand knit happiness.
…some more fat yarns spun from the fleece of a sheep called Lentil, which have now gone to their new home with a friend who likes to knit fat yarns. Plus some yarn that had been dyed in a very weak vat of indigo or woad at some time in the past, now a soft green with some help from soursobs (oxalis), a common weed here.
A while ago I went to The Drapery to buy zippers, and The Drapery is far more tempting to me than the chain alternatives, so I came away with a fat quarter (or something like that) of Liberty lawn. My Mother-Out-Law loves Liberty prints, so I tried to inhabit her aesthetic and chose this one. She is a rather petite woman, so I made four small handkerchieves and I am reliably informed that she loves them! Naturally (in her case–the other gift she enjoys is stationery) she sent me a lovely card, and observed that only another sewer would recognise the rolled hems as a special achievement. I feel so lucky to have out-laws who are so kind and lovely.
Then there was the very last of these bags.
This time I chose madder and indigo dyed threads.
The madder dyed silk in the centre of this circle was dyed at my house, (the madder and indigo purple by Beautiful Silks), and it is SO red!
There have been other small projects piling up, but there has also been a development. We went to the Royal Show again this year and Suffolks were the featured sheep breed. This beauty evidently didn’t stand still (or perhaps it was me who did the wriggling).
I tried to speak with breeders in hopes of acquiring a fleece and discovered again that I’m really quite shy. My beloved was much better at it. We spoke to breeders from WA and Tasmania who did not bring fleece, and then found one from Kangaroo Island who was happy enough to sell me a fleece if I was sure I wanted to spin from a meat sheep and did I realise this is sold as carpet wool? It’s so sad to think that the long history of this breed as a source of wool for specific uses such as socks, has been all but lost even among lovers of the breed.
Malcolm called me on the weekend and we had a chat. We agreed on one fleece and a price that I thought was too low, and what do you know? I put one and a half times the price in an envelope and he delivered two fleeces, or is it three? He threw in a “black” fleece because these sell for even less than the $3 or $4 per kilo that Malcolm gets for white Suffolk fleece. Last night I skirted it at the Guild Hall and it is grey and dark brown, cream and white (I suspect, under the dirt). I can only confirm that I won’t need another delivery in October: this is a LOT of wool. I’ve never raised a sheep, and it’s entirely possible Malcolm doesn’t know how long it takes to spin sock yarn! However, the fleece I skirted last night is lovely. I’ve had little access to Suffolk to date and spun what I had suspected was poor quality fleece with a very short staple. This has a high crimp staple of at least 8-10 cm in places, and while the coloration lowers its value for industrial processing, for me it is a real asset. I washed a small quantity before work this morning, I’m so keen to get spinning…
A while back I acquired some merino-silk 4 ply (fingering) yarn to use as a no-nylon sock yarn.
Of course, it all started out white. Over time, some was dyed in legacy logwood. Some with legacy cochineal, and some with indigo. Then I decided on overdyeing the cochineal to create stripes and spots, creating some deep pink-purple and some blue sections where I had tied resists during the first dyeing in cochineal.
There was hospital knitting, nursing home knitting, public transport knitting as ever, meeting knitting.
There was even knitting during an experimental opera!
And now there are socks. The pattern is an old favourite, Jaywalker, by Grumperina. It doesn’t stretch much but it stays up and it looks great.
They are destined to be added to India Flint’s collection… bless her creative mind and nimble fingers and keep her toes warm, I say!
Last week I sent off a small collection of squares for the Standing Here public art installation. I was just delighted (even if also saddened) to hear that the location for the installation–Tree Place–commemorates the place an ancient tree was felled. I am glad others recognise this as something to be marked and responded to.
This one is a patchwork of raw silk scraps I dyed at Summer Dye Camp. The very last of a raw silk suit a friend bought me at an op shop. I added one of the indigo dyed–bedsheet–napkins for good measure, and this piece, which is a piece of hemp/silk with borders of cotton, dyed with eucalyptus leaves in different ways. Wishing Jenai Hooke and Anne Harris every success with this project!
I have been embroidering some small bags. They came with crowd sourced underwear (organic, fair trade) in them, with all the good information about the product printed onto unbleached calico. Seven bags in all! I decided to convert them to loveliness and started with dyeing them in indigo. They are all slightly different shades of blue, some having been dipped more times than others.
I am not a sophisticated embroiderer. But I keep being given cast off embroidery thread, so there was no shortage of thread and no shortage of portable canvases for stitching.
So I tried several patterns and admit I still enjoy the spiral most of all.
One of the bags went travelling with my Mum when she was looking for a simple project, so then there were six.
And after all these adventures in stitching, there is yet one waiting to be embroidered.
I learned some things about how to store embroidery thread from the heritage items that have come to me, some of them in tangles, some in the original skeins, and some wrapped on cardboard shapes that keep the thread neat without taking up a lot of space and using something that comes into the house all the time. Thank you to those women whose hands have held these threads already and whose minds have touched mine however distantly in this way.
In the middle of all this my mother-out-law sent me her stash of embroidery threads in pastel colours, so some of them have gone into the project too. So much pleasure from running stitch…
I have been very much enjoying adding to India Flint’s Wandercards.
One of my beloved friends said something about them that made me think she might like a set of her own. Well, they won’t be a set of India’s lovely cards, but nevertheless, a set of plant dyed cards with quotes that might help her to keep her heart full and her courage blazing through tough times.
I wish I could make cards as beautiful as those India selected,–beautiful paper with rounded corners and such–but I decided to embrace the imperfection and do what I could.
Then there was the question of a suitable bag. I thought I’d make one, but then I realised I already had a perfect bag. Here I am on a train, embroidering on it and listening to an audio book. Audio books and podcasts make public transport so pleasurable!
And so, a set of cards and a little bag for them to live in, packaged up and ready to send to their new home! I know my friend will add quotes from her favourite poets and sources of inspiration.
Over the holiday, more local fleeces arrived. This is the view down into a chicken feed sack full of greasy fleece. I washed, I dried wet fleece in summer heat, I even managed to do some carding. I now have various wools dyed with woad or indigo exhausts as well as good old naturally brown or grey wool. I have taught a few beginners to dye at our evening spinning group at the Guild in the last while (or at least, I’ve been one of the people helping them to learn) and sometimes people are just so overcome at being given wool. In the future they will know that the real gift is time and effort. But I do try to let them know that I have a lot of wool and that I am happy to share.
People were generous to me as a beginner spinner, and I love to share spinning (as well as wool). I finally spun some llama fleece a friend at the Guild gave me in the spirit of adventure. It came out OK but it did have a lot of guard hair in it, so I’ll have to give thought to what it might become.
Here’s a another skein–woad on grey, I believe.
And here are indigo and indigo dyed over yellows. I realise it is better practise to dye blue first and yellow after, but, well, I didn’t like the yellows too much and just decided to dye and see! I love these colours. But my thoughts are beginning to turn toward eucalypts and their oranges and reds again…